Call to meter all surface and groundwater extractions in Australia


Ken Matthews,
Chair, National
Water Commission
Canberra, Australia — (METERING.COM) — October 13, 2009 – In its latest review of progress in reforming Australia’s water sector the country’s National Water Commission has recommended that all surface and groundwater extractions, including for stock and domestic purposes, should be metered.

In addition the Commission has urged the early completion of all outstanding jurisdictional non-urban metering implementation plans, with a view to a step function improvement in accuracy, coverage and national consistency of metering, including a deliberate coordinated national movement away from Dethridge meters to more accurate meters with higher management and accounting functionality. To help address resourcing constraints to metering implementation, the development of a new, nationally consistent metering cost sharing formula is recommended.

These recommendations are made in the wake of the finding that while the development of metering implementation plans is progressing well, resource constraints will have a major impact on the jurisdictions’ abilities to deliver expanded and accurate metering in accordance with plans.

Moreover, while the recent finalization of the pattern approvals standards for non-urban application meters is an important step, considerable work remains to develop nationally standardized approaches to meter installation and testing, and to implement the standards.

In terms of the National Water Initiative reform program water metering is required to be undertaken on a consistent basis … “i) for categories of water entitlements identified in a water planning process as requiring metering; ii) where water access entitlements are traded; iii) in an area where there are disputes over the sharing of available water; iv) where new entitlements are issued; or v) where there is community demand …”

New South Wales is currently revising its draft metering implementation plan, following the recent Australian government announcement that it will be providing assistance to the territory for the installation of meters at selected sites.

Queensland has prepared a draft implementation plan, but resource constraints relating to funding dependencies are likely to constrain the plan’s outcomes and proposed timeframes. Similarly South Australia has completed its metering implementation plan but there is currently no funding available to implement the plan.

Western Australia and the Northern Territory also have finalized their implementation plans, and Tasmania and Victoria were due to complete their implementation plans by mid”‘2009.

The report notes that the universal licensing and metering of all surface and groundwater extractions is a far-reaching recommendation which raises important cost and cost effectiveness questions. However, the Commission’s view is that best practice water management will not be achievable without eventually making it a requirement that all water extractions be identified and permitted (licensed) and measured (metered). In the exceptional cases where metering simply cannot be justified, transparent estimations of water use subject to public scrutiny could be an alternative to metering.

The report finds that Australia’s water is still in trouble. Despite some progress, the pace of water reform has slowed on almost every front, with 40 percent of the local water plans promised by state governments still unfinished, and many existing water plans suspended due to deepening drought and low flows in southern Australia.

“We urge governments to get reform ‘back on track’ and finish the job they agreed to when they signed up to the National Water Initiative back in 2004,” said Commission chair Ken Matthews on the release of the report. “This is the only way that we can achieve a water future that is more secure and sustainable – for our irrigators, our regional communities, our cities and our water dependent ecosystems.”